The process that married couples have to go through when developing an estate plan will necessarily involve issues different than those affecting single people. The differences, as this recent Forbes article points out, is in the details. Married couples need to closely consider some significant issues when they create their plans, and need to do so in light of their spouse’s desires. Developing an estate plan as a married couple often takes some careful thought and discussions, and is something that’s always best begun sooner rather than later.
Married Couple Topic 1. Incapacitation
What happens to you if you are in an accident? Will your wife or husband be able to manage your financial accounts? What about your medical choices? What about your email and online information? What happens if both of you become incapacitated at the same time?
Too many married couples take it for granted that their spouse will have the ability to take over their responsibilities if they ever become incapacitated. While this is often true, it doesn’t address all the important questions. The only way to be truly prepared is to create an estate plan that addresses all incapacitation questions.
Married Couple Topic 2. Controlling Legacies
Married couples with children face a number of issues that childless couples don’t have to think about. For example, if you plan on leaving you children or grandchildren large inheritances, do you know how receiving such large sums will affect them? Will they use the money responsibly? Will it make them happy and provide them lives of satisfaction?
Legacy issues can be complicated. Deciding how best to leave inheritances is a much different question than determining how much you can leave. Discussing your options, your desires, and your values is necessary if you want to leave legacies that allow your children and family the best chance at a good life.
Married Couple Topic 3. Protecting Your Choices and Limiting Costs
The legal reality is that everyone has an estate plan. Even if you’re never stepped foot into an estate planning lawyer’s office, the law has already made your estate planning choices for you. Only by creating a plan of your own can you ensure that your wishes will be protected.
You don’t have to know much about estate planning to know that hiring an attorney can quickly become an expensive proposition. While it’s true that estate planning can be costly, you can do a lot to minimize the costs involved.
The costs you incur creating a plan together, and doing so now, are almost always less than it would be if you wait too long. This is especially true if you leave behind an estate that leads to family conflict or discord.